Oknoplast: an empire built on close family bonds and PVC

Every Pole deserves a good window, according to the founder of Oknoplast. His son and CEO, Mikołaj Placek, provides a look inside the operations of the PVC window and door manufacturer, along with a lesson in succession planning.

Where did the idea to produce windows come from?

Our history began in 1994 when Polish capitalism and entrepreneurship was just emerging. At the time, people in the country had wooden windows which were not technologically advanced and did not provide secure room protection. While my father, Adam Placek, walked the streets of Kraków, he looked at the tenants’ windows in terrible condition and said that Poles deserve better. He decided that Poles should have windows like in Western Europe – made of PVC. That’s how Oknoplast was born.

How did the company develop over the years?

We started as a small family business with 26 people but developed quickly – and I personally developed with the company. After I gained experience in various departments, I formally took over management in 2008. When Poland joined the eu, we expanded into foreign markets and today we have a strong position in 13 foreign markets. Over our 25 years of activity, we have introduced over 50 innovationsto the market.

What challenges did you face in the beginning and how did you negotiate them?

There were various challenges from the very beginning. For example, we needed to acquire know-how, hire experienced employees and secure a machine park – something that was not available after the transformation. Then we needed to build customer awareness. It was also difficult to sell products to our neighbours because Germans are very loyal to local products produced for generations and patriotism is exceptionally strong there. Another obstacle was the perception of Polish products. Foreign window dealers were afraid that windows and doors made in Poland were of low quality. This experience taught us how to be better prepared to enter new markets. When we expanded into Italy and France, we conducted thorough research to help us tailor the way we operate in those countries.

Adam Placek (left) founded Oknoplast in 1994 and turned it into one of the largest manufacturers of PVC windows in Europe. His son, Mikołaj Placek (right) took over the company as CEO in 2008.

What can you share about working in a family business?

One of the reasons for the success and stability of the Oknoplast Group today was our well-organised and successful succession process. This is a complex process that many family businesses face, not always with positive results. We managed to make changes efficiently, but they were preceded by years of preparation. During my career at the company, I worked in production, the warehouse, administration, finance, construction, and other departments. When I took over, I had a lot of knowledge and experience that enabled me to effectively manage the organisation. In addition to the challenges, a family business is, above all, a philosophy. People are our strength and we all support one another and act together. This open, collaborative approach gives us very good results.

Where do you see your company in 5, 10 years?

Certainly as the Oknoplast Group, we plan to develop all the time, both with our products and in geographic reach. This means increasing production and revenue, but also bringing more innovative ideas to life. In the coming years, smart solutions will undoubtedly be important to us and they will probably become the technology of the future. even now, we just introduced a new product called Intelligent Window, which also acts as a tablet. However, I am convinced that products and projects of this type are just the beginning of the revolution and we want to discover new and innovative products.

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Written by: Monica Zielinski